Employers: COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

As part of the provincial response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Government has announced a new Emergency Contingency Fund as an initial step to help support Island businesses.

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The situation with COVID-19 is rapidly evolving. Find accurate, up-to-date information, including when to seek help :

Staff are collecting contact information from businesses and noting their concerns to help begin the development of program supports from the emergency contingency fund.

We are currently experiencing a high volume of calls, but want to assure Islanders we are working to address this demand and ask for your patience as we increase supports for this phone line.

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Make a Plan – Being Prepared is Good Business

  • Make sure you have a business continuity or emergency plan in place. 
  • Think about what you will do if a number of your employees become sick 
  • Support employees who may become ill. Talk to your staff about flexible hours or alternative work options should they need to stay at home for an extended period 
  • Support proper infection prevention and control measures in your business. Post hand washing signs, provide alcohol based hand rub to encourage frequent hand hygiene and ensure space/surface cleaning is completed. 
  • Avoid requesting doctors’ notes from employees who become sick or self-isolate

Frequent Questions for Employers

If an employee has to take 14 days to quarantine, is the employer responsible for paying them during that time? 

Under the Employment Standards Act, the employer would not be required to pay the employee. 

If the workplace is covered by a collective agreement, employers may consult with their collective agreement and discuss the matter with the union if there is some question on the interpretation of any of the leave and pay provisions.

Is an employer expected to lay their employee off during the 14 day quarantine period so they can access employment insurance (EI) benefits?

There's no requirement for employers to terminate or lay off employees under the Employment Standards Act to create EI eligibility. 

What are the ramifications if an employer does not pay their staff during this time?

From the employer's perspective, under the Employment Standards Act there would be no ramifications, unless they are laying staff off or terminating staff. 

Does the 14 day quarantine count as sick leave?

Yes, under Government of Canada employment insurance rules. 

Do companies have the right to impose their own policies related to employee leave during this time?

Yes, so long as the policies are in compliance with the Employment Standards Act and other legislation (e.g. human rights or Occupational Health and Safety) and advice or directives from public health. 

Does a business owner have the right to remove someone from their establishment who is not following public health’s recommendations? (e.g. not practicing social distancing) 

Yes, employers have the obligation to take every reasonable precaution to protect the occupational health and safety of persons at or near the workplace – see Occupational Health and Safety Act, s.12(1).

This involves assessing the risks of the workplace and taking appropriate action to either eliminate or, if that is not possible, to minimize those risks. 

If an employer determines that someone is posing an undue risk to the health and safety of individuals in the workplace, they are obligated to address the risk. This could involve refusing to provide services to a person engaged in the risky behavior or providing adequate protection to their workers. 

How does social distancing work for employees to customer? (e.g. someone working a checkout) 

Some jobs do not allow for the elimination of risks associated with social distance. 

For example, cashiers may be required to work within the recommended two (2) metre distance. In these cases, the employer is responsible for providing personal protective equipment to minimize the risk, such as gloves if exchanging money, and adequate hygiene practices for people, spaces and equipment.

Are there any additional steps business owners should be taking to protect their employee’s health, as well as their own health? 

All employers and workers should follow the preventative guidelines set out by the Chief Public Health Office. 
Where possible, employers should look into work from home options, social distancing workstations within the workplace and limiting face-to-face meetings with employees and clients to only that which is essential.  

Are there any extra precautions for businesses in high-risk areas such as pharmacies? 

As with any place of employment, employers must assess the risks of their workplace and take appropriate action to either eliminate or minimize those risks. Businesses that provide health care services, such as pharmacies and clinics should review their protocols for reducing the risk of transmission or exposure to ensure that risks are minimized.  

Where can I find information about workplace safety during COVID-19?

For workplace safety information during COVID-19, visit the Worker's Compensation Board.

Published date: 
March 30, 2020
Health and Wellness

General Inquiries

Department of Health and Wellness
4th Floor North, Shaw Building
105 Rochford Street
Charlottetown, PE   C1A 7N8

Phone: 902-368-6414
Fax: 902-368-4121

DeptHW@gov.pe.ca